The psychological benefits of engaging in voluntary charity will be investigated. O’Connor et al. (2012) reported that people who were other-focused as opposed to self-focused during meditation had lower depressive symptoms, maladaptive guilt, anxiety, and empathetic distress. LaPiere (1934) demonstrated that attitudes do not always reflect behavior, and thus, attitudes reflected during meditation may only represent precursory mental health benefits compared to altruistic action. Islam offers an environment conducive to study the psychological benefits of voluntary charity called Sadaqah. Sadaqah can take the form of Dua (praying for others) and altruistic action such as giving donations to the poor, spreading knowledge to those who cannot afford higher education, and visiting the sick. Babula (2013) posited that people who engage in exocentric altruistic action (helping others without regard for the self) are psychologically healthier compared with those who undertake endocentric altruism (self-interested altruism) and those who do not engage in altruism. People who engage in Sadaqah do so for either endocentric or exocentric purposes.
This research project will administer a battery of psychometric tests to determine whether people who engage in endocentric versus exocentric altruistic prayer and/or action display significant differences in achieving optimal psychological health. The objective will be to discover whether this ancient practice could contribute to traditional Western psychology by helping to alleviate mental suffering. It is anticipated that this research will result in at least two journal publications per year for the next three years detailing the mental health benefits associated with Sadaqah.